U.S. Customs and Border Protection:

Contracting for Transportation and Guard Services for Detainees

GAO-17-89R: Published: Oct 17, 2016. Publicly Released: Oct 17, 2016.

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Rebecca S. Gambler
(202) 512-8777


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

What GAO Found

GAO found that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) manages its current transportation services contract at the headquarters level, primarily through the Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) and at the sector level, through Task Order Monitors (TOM) who are assigned officials within the U.S. Border Patrol (Border Patrol), a CBP component, in each of the seven southwest border sectors covered by the contract. The TOMs and the COR coordinate with one another in the day to day oversight and management of the contract.  CBP also exercises flexibility in reallocating its contractor resources where necessary, basing its decision on mission needs and sector capabilities.  For example, on a month to month basis, the sector TOMs and the contractor coordinate to adjust or shift routes based on changes in the sector.

GAO also found that CBP has a quality assurance plan to help guide oversight of its contractor’s performance; conducts a range of monitoring activities to make sure the contractor meets contract requirements; and assesses contractor performance to identify efficiencies.  Specifically, CBP’s quality assurance plan identifies contractor performance requirements and standards, and the surveillance activities that should be conducted to assess contractor performance and compliance. The COR and sector TOMs conduct surveillance activities such as on-site inspections and reviewing incident investigations and other status reports, and use formal and informal reviews to monitor, assess, and rate contractor performance.  CBP uses the information from monitoring activities to assess and rate contractor performance on a monthly basis, and evaluate contractor performance yearly. Headquarters program officials, sector TOMs and the contractor also participate in semi-annual program management reviews to discuss contractor performance, including areas for improvement and lessons learned.

Why GAO Did This Study

As the lead federal agency charged with, keeping inadmissible aliens out of the country, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) CBP coordinates the security, monitoring and movement of individuals apprehended by its Border Patrol agents or deemed inadmissible by its Office of Field Operations (OFO) to or from several locations within and across its Border Patrol sectors and ports of entry.  In 2006, CBP began contracting for transportation services for individuals apprehended along the southwest border and to minimize the use of agents and officers performing guard and transportation duties. CBP’s current transportation services contract, awarded in August 2013, covers the transportation service needs for seven of the nine southwest Border Patrol sectors, and is valued at approximately $285 million over five fiscal years.

The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 contains a provision for GAO to report on CBP’s procurement process and standards for entities it contracts with for the transportation and detention of individuals apprehended by CBP officers, as well as the operational efficiency of its contracting.  This report examines the extent to which CBP (1) manages its existing transportation services contract to meet its needs and (2) assesses the performance of the contractor responsible for transporting detained individuals.

To determine how CBP manages its existing transportation services contract, GAO reviewed CBP’s contract documents and contract management tools, as well as sector transportation plans and needs assessments. GAO also reviewed additional documentation provided by CBP to identify how CBP assesses the performance of its contractor, and what performance standards and quality assurance framework CBP uses to monitor and assess contractor performance.  GAO further assessed CBP’s framework against applicable Federal Acquisition Regulation provisions and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance for contract quality assurance and administration. Finally, GAO reviewed CBP reports and evaluations to determine CBP’s contract monitoring activities.   

What GAO Recommends

GAO is not making any recommendations.

For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at 202-512-8777 or gamblerr@gao.gov.


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